Archive for May, 2014

31
May
14

ancient science

In yesterday’s post, the video about Derek King discussed his Christian beliefs which are at the heart of his purpose and healing. Derek’s beliefs are his, not mine. The Christ story has never resonated with me as an explanation of all that is. But the important thing is that it makes sense to Derek, that he finds deep meaning in it, and I support it.

My own son Henry has found his way to Christianity, too. I suppose that there are some people who might be offended by their children not following the parent’s beliefs, but I feel it is most important for a free individual to find the match between one’s innermost voice and a particular external doctrine that is useful to them. It is like two people speaking to one another in the same language or a radio being tuned in to a particular station. Every individual must seek that which speaks to his soul alone.

I am attracted to a cosmology, a predictive science, a general theory of How Things Work, that sees the Universe of consisting of 24 “frequencies” of energy, each represented by a rune. This belief speaks to me on many levels of meaning.

Runic CompassIf presented in their proper order, the twenty-four runes of the Elder Futhark (the Northern Alphabet) describe a complete cycle, a perfect circle/spiral, whose characteristics at each point (or rune) of the cycle flow from one to another in a coherent process of transformation. The Chinese see this same transformation process as consisting of five “seasons”: wind/water, wood, fire, earth, and metal, but our European ancestors divided it into twenty-four which they lumped together into three groups of eight. Three, five, eight, or twenty-four, it is all an attempt to describe the same thing. No one way is superior to any other. It all comes down to what works for us.

There are numerous runic alphabets that were developed and in use through history. The Elder (150-800 AD), Anglo-Saxon (400-1100 AD), and Younger (800-1100 AD) Futharks are the most well-known. (The name “futhark” is derived from the first six letters in the runic sequence: Feoh, Ur, Thorn, As, Rad, Ken.)

Elder_Futhark.

The Futhark, it is said, is a “magical alphabet.” That is, a symbolic system which represents the infinite within the finite. I see the Futhark as a beautiful thing, a design so perfect that its origins cannot be anything but divine. It integrates time and space, and helps one perceive order where others might see chaos.

Odin discovering the RunesThe mythology of the Northern spiritual tradition holds that the runes were discovered and drawn from the earth by Odin as he hung upside down on Yggdrasil, the world-tree, in a shamanic ritual of self-torture. The reality is probably that they summarize generations of human experience, observation and wisdom going back as far as the  Etruscans, Phoenicians, and even before. No one knows. The origin of the runes is lost in time.

What we know about the runes is based on a surprisingly small number of surviving runic inscriptions—about 6,400 total. About half of these are Viking-age Younger Futhark inscriptions in Sweden. Another large number are medieval runes, usually found on small objects like wooden sticks. Only 350 inscriptions are Elder Futhark.

You will note that the runes consist of only straight lines, never curved, which means they were meant to be carved. The act of carving the runes was, in fact, a form of prayer and meditation. The oldest examples of runes are found in bone and stone.

The runes were used by the peoples of Northern Europe until well into the Middle Ages and, in some of the more remote places, even as late as the 1600s. Like our own alphabet, the runes were used to express many languages (including Gothic, German, Frisian, English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Icelandic, Lithuanian, Russian, etc.) in writing and in speech. Each rune has its own spoken sound.

What we do know of the runes is based on such fragmentary evidence, they must be considered a reconstruction of the ancient wisdom that was nearly obliterated by the medieval Christian Church. It seems to me this is an advantage, because the runes can be restored today without all the superstitious clap-trap that usually accompanies human spiritual belief. We can see the runes today for what they were in their essence so long ago: ancient science.

As such, they can coexist with whatever you believe as a Christian, Jew, Islamist, Hindu, etc. They are authentic wisdom that is truly universal.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to the Rundfunk-Jugendchor Wernigerode performing “Der Baum im Odenwald” (The Tree in Odin’s Forest)

30
May
14

derek

derek king_5Although I remember the national publicity that accompanied his 2001 crime and subsequent trial, Derek and I did not become friends until 2005, when I made a gift of books to his prison. At that time, Derek was being held at Omega Prison, a highly-abusive youth prison being operated by the sheriff of Manatee County and Bradenton FL. To this day, Derek says the prison and its staff practiced techniques that are widely considered torture, and I have no reason to doubt him. Omega has since been closed down because even the state of Florida found its practices too far beyond the pale.

The circumstances surrounding our friendship were accidental. Contrary to keeping the young inmates isolated from the outer world, a staff member gave Derek permission to write me a thank-you letter for the gift of books, and a brief exchange of letters ensued. In his second letter to me, Derek admitted to the murder of his father and for a time I alone knew the truth of what was a subject of hot debate on the Internet: were Derek and Alex King or pedophile Ricky Chavis the actual murderers of Terry King?

But more impressive to me was the moral courage it took for Derek to admit to the act. If I chose to cut off communications with him, he said, he would understand.

Quite the contrary, it was the beginning of a friendship that continues to this day. Derek knows that other people may come and go in his life, but no matter what, I will never abandon him. Sometimes we go for months at a time with no communication, but he knows I am here when he needs me.

Getting to know Derek and his brother was the beginning of this strange mission of being there for young people who have killed a parent. I have learned much from Derek and continue to do so. He makes me think. He confronts me with a reality which is totally divorced from the lessons of my own upbringing.

You can imagine my surprise when he told me last night that one of his former roommates had produced a film about him more than a year ago. I share it with you now because it informs the viewer of a truth that I learned the first time we met in person: that there is nothing to fear in this gentle young man. What happened to him at age 13 is an aberration that any of us might have done in the same circumstances.

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Derek is free now; after seven years of hell he was released from prison over five years ago, and has remained free of any entanglements with the law. He claims that he has beat the odds in remaining free of rearrest, but I say he has not. I say he is living proof that parricides are not common criminals but survivors, and therefore fall outside recidivism statistics. More than 95% of parricides never go on to commit another crime.

There are some who say that Derek has got off too easy with just seven years’ punishment, but I say they don’t know what they are talking about. Derek is harder on himself than even the most abusive prison could be. He will be dealing with his actions as a 13-year-old for the rest of his life, and I will be there to help when he asks.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Derek and the Dominos performing “Keep on Growing”

29
May
14

everything in under 4 minutes

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Andy Gibb performing “I Want to Be Your Everything”

28
May
14

worth considering

At first I was repelled by this idea. But as I thought of all the wars of conquest perpetrated by ourselves and our ancestors, all the wanton destruction inflicted on the environment and the “lesser” races, the preponderance of white kids involved in school shootings and parricides, I thought: Why Not?

You decide if there isn’t something to this.

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child murderer

Making a Child Killer

A racial theory of parricide

by Derek King

Now, lets forget about the American legal system, justice, laws, and all that BS for a bit and lets go ahead and discuss what we know about the kids themselves. I recently got into a discussion about this with a Mexican friend of mine who is a psych major. This is a subject staring everyone in the face but no one has the balls to openly discuss it these days. The majority of all of the kids involved with parricide cases and school shootings and things of that nature typically are all of the same race, and that’s White People. 

Yes, the other races have lots of violence. But you do a study of the murders committed in each race as a whole and you will find that each one typically has a common theme. What makes the violence of the White race so different than the others is that there is no warning of the act to come. The children of this race do not murder out of anger or hate, more of just a means to an end. The kids look like and act like any other of the race, they are not crazy or mentally unstable it is just that for some reason eliminating someone or some people who stand in the way of the ultimate goal is deemed as okay in their minds until the brain becomes fully developed and that inhibition is put into place by the social contract theory, by society teaching them how to use their minds to do the same thing with words and superior intellect as opposed to “unprovoked” violence.

The fact that there are so many people who advocate for these kids goes to show that there are many people who understand this in America and who can empathize with the act they committed. Granted no one believes these acts should go completely unpunished but they understand why they have been committed. It is something that lies dormant in the psyche of these children and it is not anything malicious. No more than a loaded gun is malicious in and of itself. Put in the wrong hands or put under extreme pressure it will come out. Hitler knew this, look at the Hitler youth movement. Plus think about the fight or flight instinct that fear will put a person’s mind in.

Take a look at the Spartans and the Agoge. First, infanticide was a part of the culture. Then ones who made it pass the inspection were then taken from their family at the age of 7, put in the wild where they were forced to steal and kill in order to survive. By the time they were adolescence they were chiseled into the best soldiers of the world at that time. It’s all right there in history. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure all of this out. All you have to do is connect the dots. Take away human warmth and abuse kids until they can’t take it anymore and killing is just a part of life.

The problem with America today is that our culture is at a point where it is beginning to bring this out in kids at a younger and younger age and is becoming more and more common with each passing decade. Kids are becoming so violent and out of control that no one knows what to do with them anymore. It starts at home with the lack of morality or any family values. Most of these kids suffer some sort of mistreatment. No self esteem is built and then they go to school where they get harassed and bullied even more. After so long they just can’t take it anymore and they want an escape. Self mutilation and self harm are a social norm and these murders are nothing more than a cry for help. Like I said several times before, I had more freedom in prison than I did at home with my father.

The work you do to help these individual cases is great and all, but it is only cutting the weeds off at the soil…they are only going to grow back, more of them and thicker. We need to address the issue of the state of our society as a whole. The US military was busy playing hide and seek with a man on his death bed all over the middle east while this country is rotting from the inside out. We are in every other country’s business but the only thing we do for America itself is just sit in shock at all the horrible things happening in this country as they are discussed on the news. Only reports, no action taken to try to fix the issues of the brokenness in the families of America.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to The Red Hots performing “Whiteface”

27
May
14

puritan tastes

n-PRISON-large570

The Real Roots of Prison Recidivism

by David Chura, The Huffington Post

May 22, 2014
Numbers are tricky. Studies are done. Reports are written. Statistics released. And then people take the numbers and run with them, waving them like protest placards claiming how the numbers prove or disprove some long held “truth.” The Right does it. The Left does it. We all do it. Maybe there’s a tiny toggle in the human genome that manipulates us to manipulate the numbers. That’s why I’ve never liked numbers, never trusted them.

I saw this all play out in a recent Boston Globe Op-Ed piece about the high rates of recidivism in US prisons. Using the most recent data from the Bureau of Statistics, the numbers roll out: Within six months of being freed 28% of former prisoners were arrested for a new crime; three years, 68%; five years, 77%. Twenty-nine percent of the returnees had been arrested for violent offenses; 38% for property crimes; 39% for drug offenses; 58% for public order crimes. I think everyone would agree that the numbers paint a pretty bleak picture.

But this is where the numbers get tricky. The article insists that these statistics prove that efforts at prison reform and rehabilitation don’t work. Criminal justice experts have been searching for the “holy grail of rehabilitation” for years—40 according to one expert quoted—and nothing has worked. The article then goes on to suggest that since this holy grail is so elusive, since so many criminals leave prison “only too ready to offend again,” we have no option but to continue our present practice of mass incarceration, thus maintaining the U.S.’ global position of locking up 25% of the world’s prison population while being only 5% of its general population.

This is why I don’t trust numbers. In these studies and reports people are treated as mere chits in the final count. No one notices that each one of those hatch marks is an individual, a real person—prisoner, inmate, offender, criminal, con, whatever you want to call them—living a life behind bars that few of us can imagine. That is the real story behind those numbers: a man or a woman, young or old, trying to survive in a prison culture that is designed—in the name of justice—not to nurture change but to demean; a system that punishes by deprivation: lack of proper nutrition; of adequate medical and mental health care; of physical, sexual and psychological safety; of meaningful work and education.

So where’s the mystery to recidivism? It is obvious—basic Social Science 101, basic parenting or human interaction. How you treat people is how they will act. Living under present day prison conditions, day after day, for years, can only foster more bitterness, anger, and despair; can only result in more crime fueled by vengeful feelings upon release.

And that “release” is another crushing blow to the ex-offender’s chances of making it. Many find themselves barred from public housing, food stamps, certain jobs and the right to vote. In some cases federal education loans are denied for certain crimes. None of these punitive restrictions are an incentive to becoming a productive member of society.

There’s not much forgiveness in American culture. It seems that ex-offenders can’t suffer enough or repent enough for our Puritan tastes. The shackles of restrictions and prejudices that they as “free” men and women drag around may be silent compared to the ones they wore in prison, but those chains still rattle loudly not only in their own ears but in the ears of the communities that continue to shun them.

The roots of recidivism are not that elusive and never have been. Things won’t change until we are willing to define our penal system not as a social solution but as a social problem, one that we tackle with the same determination and vigor as we do other social problems such as addiction, sexual and physical abuse, and inadequate education. What’s our choice: the sacrifice, cost and efforts of true prison reform or the continued warehousing of human beings and the waste of their potential? Look at the numbers.

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David Chura is a teacher and author of  I Don’t Wish Nobody to Have a Life Like Mine: Tales of Kids in Adult Lockup

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Metallica performing “The Unforgiven”

26
May
14

adult friends

Dan and Paul cr

One of the greatest burdens in this work is learning about or meeting so many dysfunctional parents. I find it difficult to imagine what it must have been like for their children to have grown up under their influence or control. I am in full understanding with what I have heard several people say: “Some parents deserve to die”—though I do not condone murder.

So it is such an unusual pleasure to meet parents who are people I admire. It fills me with hope to have met a few adults with whom I have become friends—some of them close—because I have been willing to help them bear their burden of trouble with the System at a time that they have most needed a compassionate ear.

Chris Brown is one such friend. He is a more-than-decent guy, a loving and dedicated father to his son Jordan, an innocent who is wrongly accused by an unfair and corrupt System that has gotten it terribly wrong. Chris and I are different people with little in common outside a dedication to getting honest justice for his son. So I mainly hear from him when he needs my assistance.

But in the case of Paul Henry Gingerich’s father Paul, the bonds are much more personal. We have much in common and I hear from him all the time. In the course of working together for his son, we have become close friends. He is supportive of my vision and helps me in ways that do not directly benefit Paul Henry.

Knowing Paul has taught me a great deal. He has taught me to respect the System when parts of it truly care about justice and the welfare of young people. From the beginning I have been impressed with Paul’s acceptance that Paul Henry did a very stupid thing in assisting Colt Lundy in the murder of Philip Danner, and that the System has a legitimate responsibility to create appropriate consequences for his son. I have agreed from the start with Paul’s sense of justice.

But 25 years in adult prison for a 12-year-old who was incapable of forming adult thoughts?

I shared Paul’s belief that this punishment was disproportional, unjust, and unreasonable for a civilized society. I shared Paul’s deep appreciation for the unwillingness of IDOC’s Mike Dempsey to carry out this sentence and for Mike’s courage in defying the judge’s order for the first time in Indiana history.

As a result of our actions, it appears likely that Paul Henry will escape confinement when he reaches his 18th birthday. His involvement with the System will continue after that time, but I have no doubt that with his father’s influence Paul Henry will succeed in redeeming his life and staying out of any future entanglements with the law.

As a result of my friendship with his father, I am confident that I will finally meet Paul Henry after his release and that I will be fortunate to play a continuing part in his life.

Tonight on the Lifetime Movie Network, “Murder in Enchanted Hills” will be shown at 9:00 pm eastern time. This film by British filmmaker Zara Hayes was filmed nearly two years ago and has not been presented before in the US because it was thought that the public sensation it would cause—a reaction proved in overseas markets—would make the Indiana prosecution and judiciary more difficult to deal with.

Now that Paul Henry’s case has been finalized and more favorably resolved, public reaction can only affirm that the outcome is closer to a just resolution.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to George Jones & Kathy Mattea performing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me”

25
May
14

hockney

hockney 6.

hockney-david-day-pool-with-3-blues.

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hockney 4.

hockney 8.

hockney 1.

David Hockney.

David Hockney (born 1937) is the renowned English painter, draughtsman, printmaker, stage designer and photographer. Hockney has made paintings, prints, photos, portraits of friends, and stage designs for several of the leading theatres and operas in the world. He was an important contributor to the Pop art movement of the 1960s, and is considered one of the most influential British artists of the 20th century. He is probably best known for paintings of swimming pools in the acrylic medium and rendered in a highly realistic style using vibrant colors. Hockney is openly gay and explored its nature (not shown here) in his portraits.

One of the most interesting things about Hockney was that he was born with synesthesia, a condition in which he sees “synesthetic” colors in response to musical stimuli. This shows up in his designs for stage sets for ballet and opera—where background colors and lighting are based on the colors he sees while listening to music.

He maintains three residences in Britain and two in California, where he has lived for many years. He moved to Los Angeles in 1964, returned to London in 1968, and from 1973 to 1975 lived in Paris. He then moved to Los Angeles again in 1978, at first renting a canyon house he lived in. He later bought the property and expanded it to include his studio.  He owned a beach house in Malibu, which he sold for a boatload. His artwork sells for a boatload, too.

On the morning of March 18, 2013, Hockney’s 23-year-old assistant died as a result of taking acid, other drugs, and drinking alcohol at Hockney’s English studio.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Scala & Kolacny Brothers performing “California Dreamin'”

24
May
14

blue skies

spray can and clouds

Possibly the best-ever performance of this song.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Ella Fitzgerald performing “Blue Skies”

23
May
14

young pioneer

One of the most difficult things to get young people to understand is how long it takes to get anything new done. Kids raised on fast food have little comprehension of how long it actually takes to prepare a hamburger the old-fashioned way.

As I explained to one of our parricides on the phone today, I devoted 15 years to creating a park and trail in Minneapolis. Minneapolis was rich with available resources and the final goal was something few people opposed. A halfway setting for parricides in the middle of nowhere, on the other hand, is a far less popular goal and we must troll the entire world for just a fraction of the resources available in Minneapolis.

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Over the past five years I have managed to add 60 acres to Estrella Vista’s footprint—40 acres that were purchased and 20 acres that were donated—and I still have another 2½ years of time-payments before the original 20 acres and adobe house are paid for, making 80 acres total owned by the young people we serve.

With your help, since 2005 we have provided direct support to eleven young people in the forms of expert legal aid, commissary deposits, books and magazines, tuition payments, travel assistance, help with rent, vehicle purchase, etc. We have instigated or been involved with several landmark court cases, and almost everything we have touched has resulted in net gains for the kids involved. At a minimum, we have provided realistic hope in the lives of young people where none existed before.

Over the last 3½ years, the Wandervogel Diary has grown from 577 visitors a month to between 12,632 and 21,209 visitors per month (over three-quarters of a million total), 1,468 posts, and over 5,907 comments. Our network of supporters is truly global, with most readers/donors hailing from the US, the United Kingdom, Germany, South Africa, and Australia, and new countries being added every day.

Since 2011, we have gotten several major networks to produce/broadcast films about the kids we represent including NBC, ABC, MSNBC, A&E, etc. in the US alone, plus TV-2 and BBC radio (in the UK), RT (Russia Today), and others. Our kids have been featured in print in People and a variety of other magazines and newspapers. (On May 26th, Memorial Day, A&E—and a reader corrects me and says Lifetime Movie Network—will be screening “Murder in Enchanted Hills,” a film about Paul Henry Gingerich, at 9:00 pm eastern time.)

For me, this is major progress, but to a young person who is considering coming out, it may not seem like so very much to show.

IMG_3231Shortly after my last visitor to Estrella Vista got home, he provided the following commentary: “I think there are two distinct visions, 1) supporting the individual kids and their current needs, and 2) supporting the vision of Estrella Vista.  Unfortunately, Estrella Vista takes a backseat because of current needs and a bit of near (or short) sightedness of most people involved in support.  It will always be the harder sell.  Estrella Vista is going to be quite a balancing act for the foreseeable future.  Obviously you can’t afford to build before you have a user base, but you can’t wait for someone to show up at your door before starting on development, or at least having a valid Plan Of Action and Milestones.”

A “balancing act.” How right he is. I have thought about it carefully, and the first kid will have to move here with the property as-is to get everything started.

CCC-manual-48-49It will take at least one volunteer, hopefully a young pioneer, making a leap of faith and coming out here, despite the fact that we have no well, toilets, or other conveniences that will make this place attractive to much of anyone but me. I could live here forever with things as they are, but most young people have never lived this way (which is something straight out of the 19th century). It will take an extraordinary adventurer, someone with initiative, someone attracted to physical labor, and someone who can be happy with what he brings to this life in his soul alone.

shackleton ad croppedOne of the few challenges more daunting than coming to live on this desert is suggested by an ad written by Sir Ernest Shackleton and published in the London newspapers in 1900 before his service as third officer on Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Discovery Expedition, 1901–04. Shackleton got over 5,000 inquiries to this ad. I can’t offer an adventure that even remotely approaches an Antarctic trek, but anyone coming here will certainly feel like he’s journeyed to one of the ends of the earth.

Once the young pioneer gets here, he will immediately find that Estrella Vista is without plumbing, and therefore not a “babe magnet.” Moreover, there are few young women in the area. For this reason, I am guessing that one of the first priorities upon arrival will be the construction of an enclosed toilet/shower/dressing room unit, the first of six total.

But I am getting ahead of myself. We are only talking about his making the move; the young pioneer’s arrival is uncertain and a date certain has not been set. Chances are, you will be the first to hear it here because we will probably need your help with gas money to get him from the coast to West Texas.

Stand by.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Paul Simon & Art Garfunkle performing “Hazy Shade of Winter”

22
May
14

rosebud

Anyone who has seen the famous movie Citizen Kane (directed, co-written, produced by, and starring Orson Welles) is aware that the whole movie builds on the enigma of Charles Foster Kane’s dying words, “Rosebud.”

“The device of the picture calls for a newspaperman (who didn’t know Kane) to interview people who knew him very well,” said Orson Welles in a 1941 interview about his film. Kane had experienced unparalleled worldly success. “None had ever heard of ‘Rosebud.’ Actually, as it turns out, ‘Rosebud’ is the trade name of a cheap little sled on which Kane was playing on the day he was taken away from his home and his mother. In his subconscious it represented the simplicity, the comfort, above all the lack of responsibility in his home, and also it stood for his mother’s love which Kane never lost.”dinosaur drawing

I think we all have one thing in our youth for which the significance and meaning has been a powerful, formative influence on our entire life. For me, my “Rosebud” is a mural of dinosaurs which I began drawing in the first private art lessons that were paid for by my grandfather when I was just eight years old. I wish I had that drawing today. It has been long thrown away, but it has become emblematic in my memory of the belief that my family had in me.

Over my childhood years, this endorsement of my artistic bent was transferred from my family to their friends, and many times I was commissioned by my parents’ friends to do paintings and even repair broken statues for them. When my parents had parties with their friends, a few always came up to my bedroom to learn about the latest projects that I was up to.

The adults in my life recognized that I had a special artistic talent as a little boy, and from eight onwards they always tried to make me feel special and encourage that talent in me. It was an affirmation that influenced me always in art and all things; it told me I could succeed at anything that I could imagine, and I believed it and still do.

This respect was a heady thing for a child to experience, and it was the direct opposite of what I see being experienced by most parricides. It is this disparity between my experience and theirs that has motivated me to become involved in this work. It has always been my belief that all young people deserve similar endorsement of their particular abilities and gifts. Inspired by the examples of my parents and friends, I have always hired young people to do things that most people use Angie’s List to vet.

As it turns out, as I got older I decided for myself that I would only be a second-rate artist, whereas my most marketable abilities lie in different areas. But the belief that my parents, relatives, and friends had in me had a lifelong effect. I will never be able to repay it except to pay it forward.

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Groove of the Day

Listen to Frank Sinatra performing “Thanks For The Memory”